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Multicultural banqueting in the development of archaic Greek society : an investigation into modes of intercultural contact Solez, Kevin Bradley


Did Greeks and non-Greeks banquet together in the first half of the first millennium BCE, and if so, how does this mode of cultural contact explain the evidence of cultural exchange between Greece and the Near East? Following suggestions in scholarship that Greeks shared a banqueting culture with West Semitic peoples, and that Greeks sometimes banqueted with non-Greeks, this dissertation presents evidence that Greeks banqueted with non-Greeks, explains why they should have done so in terms of earlier practices and anthropological theory, and argues that multicultural banquets were the primary mode of peaceful cultural contact in the thought-world of Greeks in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE. Chapter 1 addresses the evidence for multicultural banqueting before the first millennium, and finds that it was a feature of diplomacy in the Late Bronze Age (1700-1100). Objects and texts are examined and used as evidence that members of various populations learned foreign banqueting customs. I argue that the multicultural banqueting in the Iron Age (1100-750) and Archaic period (750-490) is a revival of Late Bronze Age diplomatic practices. Chapter 2 addresses evidence for reclined banqueting in the Iron Age, arguing that it is a result of multicultural banqueting among various groups. It is interpreted as a feature of diplomacy and as an instantiation of the anthropological theory of Mary Helms (1988) that elites seek out external symbols of status in order to be recognized as elite by foreigners and to differentiate themselves at home. Chapter 3 focuses on the Iliad and finds that multicultural banquets are philologically distinguished from banquets among Greeks, and that the banquet is essential in cultural contact where hostility is possible. Chapter 4 focuses on the Odyssey and demonstrates that banqueting mediates contact between Greeks and non-Greeks in the Archaic imagination. I hope hereby to construct a stable mode of contact that explains the evidence of cultural exchange between Greek and West Semitic populations, such as the alphabet, the burning of incense in ritual, and adaptations of gods and cults. The multicultural banquet becomes an interpretive model for developments in Archaic Greek literature, culture, and society.

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